Organic is fashionable. Organic production is an agri-food management and production system that combines environmental best practices together with a high level of biodiversity and preservation of natural resources. Organic producers are responsible for the application of high animal welfare standards to obtain products from natural substances and processes.
The general director of the Food Industry, José Miguel Herrero, announced in March 2019 the results of the study “How do Spanish people behave with regard to innovative foods?”. This study revealed that the youngest consumers (25 to 39 years of age) are those who are most focused on and most attracted by such products.
The report “The organic sector in Spain 2018” prepared by the consultancy Ecological.bio, specialising in advisory services in the field of organic food and distribution, coincides with this assessment: millennials have become the main national organic consumers.
“Their greater awareness towards healthier shopping and consumption habits, the fact that they are the new parents of families and their foreseeable greater disposable income will positively influence national consumption data,” says Diego Roig, CEO of EcoLogical.bio. For the first time, Spain has entered the world Top 10 in terms of internal market volume and year-on-year growth, driven by a significant increase in the number of consumers and national per capita consumption. In this way, the sector faces the future with very positive perspectives.
According to data from the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, the value of organic production of animal origin in 2017 amounted to €345.6 million (18.9% of the total value of organic production); a figure which is practically the same as that of the previous year. With regard to organic livestock, significant growth was seen in 2017 compared to 2016 in the case of beef cattle (+3.12%), cow’s milk (+18.85%) and sheep’s milk (+5.2%); although in all cases this starts from a very low base.
Spain is already the world’s leading producer of organic wine and the second of olive and citrus oil and also the second producer in the European Union of tropical and subtropical fruits obtained from natural processes. However, organic production of animal origin still has a way to go. If in 2013 the production value of animal origin in Spain was 13.3%, in 2017 the percentage rose by over 5.5 points to stand at 18.9%, still a moderate increase for a sector that, despite everything, has a big future to look forward to.
The Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Luis Planas, was clear at the inauguration of the International Meat Industry Fair, MEAT ATTRACTION held in 2018: “The sector’s large numbers confirm the growth of organic meat production, which is in full swing and shows great growth potential thanks to the increase in demand.”
According to data provided by the Ministry of Agriculture, the sheep sector was the one which accounted for more organic livestock in 2017, the last for which there are definitive official figures. During this period, organic livestock production recorded 564,000 head of livestock; 385,000 birds and 197,000 beef cattle. Far below these figures are goats, with a census of 38,000, and pigs, which did not reach 10,000 head of livestock. However, all the livestock sectors recorded a negative evolution in production except for beef, which experienced a growth of 3.1% compared to the previous year.
A study prepared by the consultancy Prodescon for the Ministry of Agriculture reveals that Andalusia is, by far, the Autonomous Region with the largest number of livestock farms of organic production in our country. In 2017, the eight Andalusian provinces had a total of 4,647 organic livestock farms. In just four years, Andalusia increased its census by more than 1,300 farms, with a growth of more than 8%. Well behind it comes Catalonia, which in the same period registered 913 organic livestock farms, and Galicia, which had 405 farms registered that same year.
However, the highest percentage growth experienced since 2013 has been recorded by the Autonomous Region of Extremadura, which increased its number of farms by 19.06% between that year and 2017. In this period (from 2013 to 2017), this region went from having 149 farms to 291, a figure that, although still modest, highlights the importance of the gains being made by organic production in our country.
Together with Extremadura, the other Autonomous Region that registered growth above the rest was Galicia. In 2013, this region had only 212 organic livestock farms and in 2017, the number was 405. In terms of the national aggregate, in 2017 there was a census of 7,792 farms that reflected a growth of almost 7% since 2013.
Official data from the Ministry of Agriculture shows that the census of pigs and laying hens is merely anecdotal compared to that of conventional farms, as it does not even reach 1% of the total. However, there is an increasing evolution with regard to goats (whose census was 71,741 head in 2017 representing 2.34% of the total), cattle (with 207,121 organic cattle and 3.2% of the total) and especially with regard to sheep, which reached 3.7% of the total census of livestock with 590,000 head in that annual figure.
QUALITY AT SOURCE
The Government has proposed the enhancement of 165 indigenous breeds to differentiate their products and their value exclusively in Spanish gastronomy, not only to face the international commitments of our country, but also to be able to carry out the “Spanish Strategy of Conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity”.
Organic livestock respects animal welfare, allows free access to livestock pasture and prohibits intensive methods of exploitation. The preventive use of antibiotics is not allowed and the animals are fed with organic raw materials. The result is that organic meat provides more protein, has less fat and is more tasty and aromatic.
According to the study prepared by EcoLogical.bio, the main reasons that encourage consumers to buy organic products are, first of all, the awareness of the health benefits they bring, since they consider that such products contribute to leading a healthier life. The fact that practices which respect the environment are used, as well as the products’ higher quality and taste are other factors that have a positive impact when filling one’s shopping basket. On the contrary, their high cost, the difficulty of finding them in many establishments and the lack of a clear awareness in this regard are factors that play against these products. Reports handled by the Ministry of Agriculture show that 36% of consumers ensure they purchase organic fresh meat once a week, a percentage that is increasing.
Consumer market behaviour shows that differences between conventional and organic production still exist. In 2017, the last year for which definitive data are available, the market volume of conventional production was €102.5 million, while for organic production it was €1.9 million. The market growth of conventional production stood at 2.86% over the previous year, while that of organic products grew more than 16%, a true reflection of the boom that the current growing demand is experiencing.
Currently, the consumption of organic food is growing at almost 20 times the rate of non-organic food. There has been a rapid and intense development in the organic production sector in Spain and it makes up an important economic, technological and socially differentiated complex that forms an important part of the basic structure of the Spanish agri-food system.
More than 2 million hectares dedicated to organic production in Spain (8.21% of all useful agricultural land), about 38,000 agricultural producers, more than 7,810 industrial establishments, more than 1,110 wholesalers, more than 260 importers and more of 85,000 workers can be optimistic in a sector that reflects an expenditure on organic products in the domestic market that is around €2,000 million, with exports close to €900 million and imports that already exceed €770 million
Large food production groups and the main organised distribution firms are becoming increasingly involved in the organic trend, and experts in the sector believe that the time has come to initiate links between structures, interaction and sectoral representation. All these indicators make it clear that, although slower than the rest of organic products, meat is a sector which is constantly evolving and which has particularly optimistic growth prospects although, to maintain this trend, it is important to continue making progress to alleviate the deficiencies detected.
Isidoro CAMPOS. ÍCARO PRESS